The Drummer’s manifesto: Empowering your musical brain for optimal health. By Pamela Lynn-Seraphine A reflection of the lecture by Chris Kallevag - PSY86506 – Extra Credit
Pamela Lynn-Seraphine is a world-class percussionist and a M.Sc. psychology graduate of California Southern University. An overuse injury put a halt to her music career and she begun to study how drumming affects the human brain. Pamela talked about musical entrainment, which is the synchronisation of individuals to a certain rhythm, like foot tapping. While playing with others it has shown with EEG that the brains chemistry synchronizes playing the same musical piece. Drumming is part of a contemplative practises like meditation, chi-gong, and yoga. The repetitive rhythm can help anyone to alleviate stress. The brain’s reward system gets activated, dopamine gets released. Personally, I think we also see a release of endorphins, this is what she refers to when musicians getting into the zone. Pamela called it a psychological orgasm. A biochemical reaction. Due to this being a reflection of a lecture I don’t know if tests of neurotransmitters release have been conducted while playing. It would be interesting to know what would be the optimal play time for the maximum release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. Neuroscientists have begun to work with musicians to see what happens in their brain when they are playing. One musician who himself has a great interest in the healing power of the drumming and how it effects the brain is Grateful Dead’s former drummer Mickey Hart. When he played for his grandmother who suffered from Alzheimer’s she spoke his name. He works with Dr. Adam Gazzaley at UCSF. Pamela calls the specific drumming where you play a groove for Neuro-drumming. She breaks it down in three parts; 1.Find the rhythm; Find a rhythm which you can relate to. A rhythm you enjoy playing. It can’t be too easy, has to be a challenge to learn so the brain has to work not get bored. 2. Repeat the rhythm; “if you hold down a rhythm for twenty minutes it totally changes you”, Pamela Lynn-Seraphine. I have learned many years ago that the brain releases endorphins after about twenty minutes of exercise. This is probably what Pamela refers to. 3.Be the rhythm; This will be equal to be in a meditative state. Pamela emphasizes that finding pleasure in the rhythm is what it is all about. The drumming teaches you patience, focus, concentration, self regulation and a different way of being. It changes the way you see things continues Pamela. Music therapy to help children and adults to improve their function has been around for quite a few years. It could music groups for be children with autism to older adults affected by Parkinson. Pamela teaches both the patient population with physical and mental issues and the people who mainly want to have fun and feel great. Everyone rips the benefits from the drumming. Now you can study music therapy in undergraduate and even graduate level. Music therapy has become a part of psychological treatment and rehabilitation. At the end of her lecture during the Q and A Pamela got a question. It was about if you would get the same benefits from playing another instrument? Yes, she said, but the key thing when it comes to the drum is to repeat a rhythm which would be doable on another instrument as well. The difference with a guitar for example is that you don’t like to repeat five or six chords for twenty minutes, you like to learn to play a song. For most people it’s easier to repeat a rhythm than learn to play an instrument. There is a rhythm for everyone, even for people like myself. I can attest to that after been playing the djembe drum for about a month. I liked this lecture. Pamela did a good job explaining drumming and the neuroscience behind it. It was only an introduction to it but it made a lot of common sense. Think, about it, we humans have used the drum to communicate with the “other” tribe for thousands of years. Our ancestors danced around the campfire to the beat of the drum. For me it feels like to be able connect to the past via the drum. DrIf you wanted to play an instrument for a long time and always thought it's too hard or already struggled to learn, here is your chance to take the leap. Play the drum, it has the same benefits as meditation. I have done sitting meditation in the past, Tibetan style, focusing on the breathing to clear the mind. The problem I had was that I nodded off, problem to stay awake. With the drumming you won’t fall asleep and you get benefits like stress alleviation, dopamine and endorphin release and healing of the brain, all backed up by science, and it’s fun! Now, I’m a beginner drummer. I got inspired and went to the local music store and purchased a Djembe drum. I practice almost every day and I truly enjoying it.